To Deal with Bullying, Elders Rely on Their Loved Ones

The Research Chair on Mistreatment of Older Adults publishes landmark study on the perception of elders toward bullying

More than 90% of elders would rely on their loved ones, an organization or an authority figure if they felt bullied or witnessed bullying, according to a study led by the Université de Sherbrooke's Research Chair on Mistreatment of Older Adults and DIRA-Estrie, Centre d’aide aux aînés victimes de maltraitance. It is the first scientific study ever led in Québec to specifically examine this subject.

The findings, which were released on the International Day of Non-Violence and the day after the International Day of Older Persons, underscore the importance of raising public awareness of bullying toward the elderly and of giving their loved ones and organizations tools to respond rapidly to calls for help or assistance.

Bullying involves...

  • Two-thirds of elders have difficulty differentiating mistreatment and bullying. Mistreatment, whether intentional or not, occurs within a relationship of trust. Bullying, which is almost always intentional, occurs in every type of relationship. However, the elderly unequivocally use the same verbs to describe the phenomena: pushing, screaming, insulting, and so on.


  • If they were to witness or become the target of bullying, 93.2% of those met mentioned that they would rely on at least one resource for help: a community organization, a CLSC, a physician, a priest, the police, an organization for seniors, Ligne Aide Abus Ainés, friends, family, and so on.
  • If they were victims of bullying, a significant number of elders would confide in a close friend. However, if they were to witness bullying in a group living environment, they would have a greater tendency to refer to the staff or management of the seniors' home.
  • Whether they were to become targets or witnesses, 77% of elders stated that they would be apprehensive before confiding in others out of fear of: retaliation, abandonment, being disbelieved, becoming isolated, or being perceived as a snitch, having to leave their living environments, and so on.

More highlights in the press release



"I intervened when a son was taking advantage of his mother who was not mentally fit to take defend herself. After that, I realized that there weren't any repercussions. I wasn't beaten. But I found the situation unfair. It made me react. It was protecting a person who was incapable of doing so." - Testimony from an elder

"It crosses a line. The first time, you tell yourself it's not that bad. But after two or three times... It becomes a routine. You ask yourself: 'Could it happen to me?'  That will perhaps make you do something about it. But perhaps you won't be able to tell the person directly. You'll find another way such as [turning to] an association or something like that." – Testimony from an elder

The research findings show the importance of continuing to raise public awareness and of making potential avenues known, because an elder who is close to us may ask us for help."

Dr. Marie Beaulieu, Chairholder and Professor with the faculty of arts and humanities at the Université de Sherbrooke, and Researcher at the Research Centre on Aging of the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS.


"Thanks to the data gathered, we will develop a practice guide which we will be able to use to improve our service offer and to better support older adults who ask for help or who request assistance."

- Lucie-Caroline Bergeron, Coordinator of DIRA-Estrie

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